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Reviews Written by
Cuban Heel "Neil Schiller" (Liverpool)

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Suedehead: The Best Of Morrissey
Suedehead: The Best Of Morrissey
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 2 Oct. 2007
I think it's fair to say that Morrissey's solo output has never really matched the brilliance of The Smiths, but there is evidence on this 'Best Of' cd that he's sometimes come close. 'Suedehead' and 'Boxers' in particular are brilliant tracks and wouldn't have been too out of place on 'Strangeways Here We Come'. His cover of 'That's Entertainment' is good and 'Every Day is Like Sunday' is a bit of a classic, although the lyrics do tie it to the late eighties.

The middle of the cd takes a bit of a dip I think, a lot of the tracks sounding a bit sub-standard. But it picks up again when he gives full vent to his strange sense of humour with songs like 'You're the One for Me Fatty' 'Last of the Famous International Playboys' and 'We Hate it When our Friends Become Successful'.

It's a shame he and Johnny Marr don't work together anymore - together they produced music touched by genius. But this is worth a listen for the stand out moments outlined above.

MTV Unplugged in New York
MTV Unplugged in New York
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 1 Sept. 2007
I was a fan of Nirvana before I heard 'Unplugged' but this album just proved to me how great a band they were. Stripped of the feedback and the frenetic punk energy the songs still stand up as classics.

'About a Girl' is total post-punk Beatles; 'Come as You Are' is better acoustically than released on 'Nevermind'; 'The Man Who Sold the World' is better than the Bowie original. 'Pennyroyal Tea' has some of the best lyrics Cobain ever wrote - "I'm on warm milk and laxatives; cherry flavoured ant-acids", "I have very bad posture". Pure generation x angst.

The cello on 'On a Plain' and 'Something in the Way' is hauntingly beautiful. 'All Apologies' is precisely performed and sounds like it was written for an intimate acoustic set. There are a lot of covers here and I must admit I do wish there were more Nirvana originals. 'Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam' isn't as good a song as some of their own they could have included. And the Meat Puppets tracks are pretty good, but they could have dropped one or two of them for an acoustic 'Lithium' or 'Serve the Servants' which would have been more interesting.

Overall though, this is an awesome record. Nirvana had some detractors based on ridiculous arguments that other bands had done the American indie thing before them, or that they were too popular for an authentic underground band. But this album proves that they were much much more than media favourites. They were the real deal. Live and exposed they more than prove their talent and their place amongst the best two or three bands ever.

Heartattack And Vine
Heartattack And Vine
Offered by Side Two
Price: £13.99

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 1 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Heartattack And Vine (Audio CD)
You might remember, some years ago now, a bizarre Levi's advert with a funeral procession in it and a strange blues track that begins 'Liar Liar, your pants on fire'. That was a Screaming Jay Hawkins cover of the Tom waits track 'Heart Attack and Vine'. An absolutely fantastic white trash blues ramble that pretty much sums up this album.

If 'The Heart of Saturday Night' is the sound of a down-and-out pulling it all together for a late night performance in a jazz club, this is the sound of the morning after. The art work on the cd features Tom Waits' face on a yellowing newspaper and the music sounds like that of someone who has just woken up on a park bench wrapped in this newspaper. It's downbeat blues with the vocals of someone really trying to shake off their hangover.

'Heart Attack and Vine' is superb - so original. 'Downtown' is sleazy blues, 'Til the Money Runs Out' is edgy and paranoid, 'Mr. Siegal' is a drunken brawl waiting to happen. 'On the Nickel' and 'Ruby's Arms' sound like ballads from a Gershwin musical, if Gershwin had ever written anything about tramps in Times Square.

This album bridges the gap between Waits' earlier work and his later experimental output. If you haven't heard much Waits, the closest thing I can think of is the slower, more sentimental, tracks by The Pogues - think 'Fairytale of New York' only spread out across the year rather than just a Christmas song. It's as far from the sanitised output of your average record label as you can get and should be worth a listen on that basis alone...

The Heart Of Saturday Night
The Heart Of Saturday Night
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably Good, 1 Sept. 2007
This album is a real find. Absolutely fantastic. It's pretty much in a class and genre of its own - probably not revisited until Nick Cave's 'Boatman's Call' in the 90s. Lyrically it's kind of somewhere between Bob Dylan and Springsteen, filtered through the literary influences of Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski. Probably the best way to describe it is with some kind of scenario. Imagine you're out in New York late at night, drunk as you've ever been, and you stumble into an underground jazz cafe at 2am. Through the haze of cigarette smoke you can just about see this dishevelled guy sitting at a piano who is playing surprisingly intricate and moving music while singing in a rasping blues voice about love and loss in the back alleys of America. That pretty much sums it up.

'New Coat of Paint' sounds like Dylan covering a Nina Simone track. 'Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night' is a bit more mainstream - maybe Jackson Browne if he was ever feeling a bit suicidal. 'Please Call me Baby' is just beautiful. And my favourite, surprisingly, is 'Diamonds on my Windshield' which is more performance poetry than a song, but is so original it's difficult not to love it. "There's fifteen feet of snow in the East and it's colder than a well-digger's ass". When was the last time you heard a line THAT good on a cd?

Without being too pretentious, let's be honest about life for a minute. Most of us aren't supermodels, most of us don't feel happy and fantastic all the time, most of us can't sing like angels. And yet we all find happiness and beauty in the world on a pretty regular basis. This album is the sound of someone who is probably even less of a supermodel than you or I, who is less happy and more screwed up than we are, who sings like a drunk who's just woken up in a dumpster, and yet he finds beauty and poignancy all around him. There's something pretty life affirming about that. I haven't listened to this album once without being moved like I've never been moved before.

I know Waits went on to create some pretty innovative, and pretty out-there music after this. But this is as honest and heart-rending as it gets. If you want something to listen to over a glass of whisky or a bottle of wine late at night, seriously, you should look no further than this. It doesn't get any better.
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Live At Benaroya Hall - Oct.22, 2003
Live At Benaroya Hall - Oct.22, 2003

5.0 out of 5 stars Stripped down and even better, 28 Aug. 2007
I don't know what it is about acoustic releases, but they tend to bring out the best in some bands. This album easily ranks alongside Nirvana's Unplugged - with the feedback and the noise removed the quality of these songs really shines through. Which is not to say I don't normally like Pearl Jam, but perhaps I just didn't realise how good their output really was until there was less distraction and I could focus more on the melodies and the lyrics.

Some of the other reviewers have mentioned it, but the sound quality of this cd is fantastic. There's a real ambience about it, probably occasioned by the intimacy of the gig itself and the acoustics of the venue the band is playing in. Eddie Vedder's vocals are outstanding, sort of a mellow growl that accompanies the arrangements perfectly.

It's difficult to pinpoint highlights because the whole set is first rate. And the songs all combine into a real collective experience. But my favourites are probably 'Low Light' and 'I Believe in Miracles'. At one point Vedder highlights a mistake the band have made in a song they've just played and you find yourself wondering if you noticed it or not. It hardly matters anyway because it almost feels like you're there, just taking in the atmosphere. It's all so laid back it's like listening to a bunch of friends trying out a few songs. They could mess up half of them and it wouldn't matter. (As it happens, they don't, the musicianship is pretty outstanding throughout).

If you have any doubts about how good Pearl Jam are, you should really listen to this album. Preferably late at night with a few drinks and no distractions.

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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 26 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Nevermind (Audio CD)
It doesn't matter that this album became popular. It doesn't matter that Cobain moved away from the underground scene by injecting a bit more melody in his songs on 'Nevermind'. It doesn't matter that the ethos of American indie music or the 'grunge' scene didn't start with Nirvana. The fact is that this is an outstanding record. Why did it sell more copies than anything by The Pixies? Because it's better than The Pixies.

Music doesn't always have mass appeal just because it conforms to the lowest common denominator. Sometimes it really is just that good. And you can make the argument that everything is derivative - all music builds upon something that came before it.

The truth is that there isn't a bad track on this album. Beatle-esque harmonies are interwoven with grinding guitars and bouncy little bass loops. The drums drive everything on with frenetic energy. Cobain's voice cracks and howls throughout, bridging the gap between blues and punk. And the lyrics speak to the angst-ridden teenager in us all. Everything just seems to gel perfectly. And when music is this good, all that other nonsense is meaningless. 'Selling out', in this case, is just a euphemism for 'getting better'.

My favourite track is probably 'Lounge Act' because it shimmies along in a vaguely sleezy kind of way. But 'Drain You' has a great opening; 'On a Plain' has these great, breathy vocal harmonies; 'Stay Away' is a proper shriek-along song; and 'Something in the Way' is creepy and uplifting at the same time - no mean feat. I surely don't need to say much about the 4 singles that were lifted from the album, you will have heard them a zillion times already. But what I will say is that if you like those tracks, you'll be amazed at how the record actually gets better after them (ie. on the vinyl copy I owned originally, the b side is actually better than the a side). Which is saying something when you're talking about 4 of the best songs of the early 90s: 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', 'In Bloom', 'Come As You Are' and 'Lithium'.

Seriously, don't get put off by the opinions of people who want to appear cool by rejecting something just because it was popular, or by pointing out that someone else did something similar before. Quality is quality. Who cares if someone wants to make themselves look clever?

Once I Was
Once I Was

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, 26 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Once I Was (Audio CD)
Bizarrely, this is in my opinion the best Tim Buckley cd out there. Gleaned from different live BBC sessions, it provides a direct glimpse of his talent, unfettered by studio production or complex jazz/folk arrangements. What you get is Tim's voice, stripped down acoustic guitar and some minimal (but beautiful) musical backing from his band. In particular, the guitar work on 'Hallucinations/Troubadour' is outstanding. (Lee Underwood who played on this sounds like a forerunner to John Frusciante who has explored the same territory on Red Hot Chilli Pepper tracks like 'Scar Tissue' and 'I Could Have Lied' as well as his own solo work).

As well as this track, which is mesmerising, there is the glorious funk/blues howl of 'Honey Man' and the classic 'Sing A Song For You' which is the purest and best version of this track I've heard.

His studio albums now sound a bit dated, probably because the production of them ties them so distinctly to the sixties/seventies. But here the songs sound timeless, like they could have been recorded yesterday. Even if you have everything else by him, buy this, it's Tim Buckley as you have probably never heard him before.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably THE essential album of the decade, 26 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Grace (Audio CD)
This album arrived with the most critical acclaim I'd ever heard, and it's probably the only time a record has actually lived up to it. This is an amazing collection of songs. Truly original, and absolutely breathtaking. So much so that on first listen I was completely bemused. But there is so much here that every time you stick it on some new moment of genius jumps out at you.

'Mojo Pin' is a strange opener but really grows on you. 'Grace' and 'Last Goodbye' are an awesome couple of songs: highly original song structures, fantastic guitar playing and some truly remarkable vocals. His voice just swoops and soars. He had such a unique talent that I will be amazed if I ever hear anyone cover either of these songs well.

Elsewhere, his cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' is just beautiful - truly mesmerising. (I saw Buckley live in Manchester before he died and my girlfriend at the time fainted in the middle of this song). 'Lover, You Should've Come Over' just builds and builds until you think it has nowhere else to go. 'Eternal Life' is a proper all out deluge of guitars and 'Dream Brother' is a haunting loop of a song that sounds a bit like The Doors played by Jefferson Airplane.

(As an aside - 'Forget Her' was tagged onto the later release of this album - it wasn't on the original I owned. It's a decent enough track but it detracts a bit from the original song sequence).

The only thing that threatens to let this album down is the inclusion of 'Lilac Wine'. He sings it well enough but it's just a bit of a weak song. I've never really understood what he saw in it when you consider the quality of the other tracks he chose to cover here, on 'Live at Sine', or on any of the other cds that have been put out. But this aside, this is an unbelievably good album. This guy was the real deal - a totally unique and genuine talent. It's a shame he didn't get to follow this album up properly. But in the absence of anything else of the same standard, just buy this and listen to it again and again - it's good enough on its own...

The Bends
The Bends
Price: £10.19

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have they done anything as good since?, 26 Aug. 2007
This review is from: The Bends (Audio CD)
Almost everyone will tell you that 'Ok Computer' is the pinnacle of Radiohead's career to date, but I disagree. Yes, that's a great album, but 'The Bends' is for me the one where everything just came together perfectly. The disenchantment with consumerism, the mistrust of technology, the introspective lyrics - all combined with inventive, and sometimes just plain lovely, musical ideas.

I don't think I've heard another album that has such a strong opening song sequence. 'Planet Telex' draws you in just to hit you with the sheer energy of the title track which absolutely soars. 'High and Dry' is that rare thing - a decent epic ballad, with a great acoustic opening and some brilliant falsetto vocals from Thom Yorke. Then there's 'Fake Plastic Trees' which is probably one of the most identifiable tracks of the entire 90s.

The trajectory slows a little bit with the next two tracks, but then cranks up again with 'Just' and its blistering guitar that sounds unlike anything I've ever heard before (or since)- sort of a rock/indie/electronic hybrid - nothing short of a virtuoso performance. 'My Iron Lung' is the track that logically connects this album with their previous big hit 'Creep', sounding a bit like a pyschedelic Beatles demo but filtered through a further 25 years of angst. 'Bullet Proof' is a dreamy interlude before the anthemic 'Black Star', as is 'Sulk' a moderately interesting track (perhaps the weakest on the cd) before the now famous, and haunting, 'Street Spirit'.

Since 'The Bends', Radiohead have gone on to more experimental, perhaps more intriguing things, but not yet have they bettered this. It was loosely categorised into the whole 'Britpop' explosion but it stands out from this not just in style but also in quality. It was truly unique at the time of its release, and perhaps it is the ultimate compliment that a whole generation of guitar bands that followed (Muse, JJ72, Coldplay) all copied it. My advice would be to go straight to the source - you won't regret it.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I love you, I love you, I love you, what's your name?, 26 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Dirty (Audio CD)
To be fair, Sonic Youth are a bit of an acquired taste. I don't agree that they produce tuneless music, but their melodies are not as immediate as some of the other bands of their ilk - not as harmonious as say The Pixies or Nirvana. But this is a great album, straight from the New York school that bridges the gap between the Velvet Underground and the grunge scene they briefly became a part of.

'100%' is pure garage rock, swamped in a wall of feedback; 'Sugar Kane' is a churning epic that blusters along nicely; 'Theresa's Sound World' is more reminiscent of Neil Young or REM for some reason - it just has that rural American indie feel to it. The highpoint is perhaps 'Drunken Butterfly' which sounds almost like a lost Velvet Underground classic with a deranged Nico giving vent to some twisted stream of consciousness.

This album is definitely one to check out. But play it loud - it makes more sense that way...

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